A recent UK study showed that women criticize themselves an average of eight times a day. And almost half admit to starting as early as before 9:30am.
I’m sure many of you can relate to this. Whether it be criticizing our own appearance, berating ourselves for forgetting something, or engaging in self deprecating humour, we as women can easy fall into the trap of being hard on ourselves.
While it may feel relatively harmless at the time, criticizing ourselves constantly can be damaging. Not only does it impact our self confidence, but it can also lead to us sabotaging ourselves.
In fact, as Big Think puts it:
“Constant negative self-assessments lead to low self-esteem, which in turn lead to acts of self-sabotage. You begin to feel like you don’t deserve happiness; you put less effort into achieving your goals; you fail; you feel bad. Wash, rinse, repeat.”
Breaking the pattern can feel like an uphill battle, but there are some powerful tools we can lean on to do so. Here’s my take on how to stop being hard on yourself.
#1. Write yourself a permission slip.
Permission slips aren’t only for school field trips. When I first learned this concept from my coach Tammy, I have to admit I was skeptical. Writing a permission slip? To yourself? Huh?
The concept originated from Brené Brown, whose work we studied in The Daring Way group coaching program. It involves writing ourselves notes that give ourselves permission to feel, act, and be a certain way. In this short video, Brené gives an example of her permission slips going into an interview with Oprah. Here are a few of them:
- You have permission to be excited when you meet Oprah.
- You have permission to be giddy.
- You have permission to be completely uncool.
This is powerful for a few reasons.
First, it encourages you to be deliberately vulnerable. Since you’re acting as the authority and preemptively giving yourself permission, you’ll be more likely to stay true to yourself.
And second, because you’ve given yourself permission to act or feel a certain way, you’re less likely to be hard on yourself about it if and when it happens.
By doing this work ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up for greater self compassion and empathy.
#2. Challenge the absolutes.
When we’re hard on ourselves, we have a tendency to use words like “always” and “never”: “Eugh, you always say the wrong thing at the wrong time.” “You never make the healthy food choice.” “You always disappoint people.” “You never succeed.”
Thinking this way brings us even lower, as we turn one negative thing into a story of multi-yearlong failure. And the thing is, it’s not true.
Was there at least one time in your life you didn’t say the wrong thing at the wrong time? Have you ever made a single healthy food choice? Did you ever meet or exceed someone’s expectations? Have you ever experienced success?
Chances are, a few salient experiences are turning into “always” and “never”. And that’s simply inaccurate and not fair to yourself. So challenge those absolutes, and ease up.
#3. Connect with yourself.
Often when we’re being hard on ourselves, we are caught up in a negative spiral that is externally focused. We’re busy thinking about what we did, what we said, and how we acted. We’re concerned about what people thought, how they perceived us, and what that means. It’s almost like our brains are on a hamster wheel, constantly processing the past and worrying about the future.
At times like these, we seem to lose sight of ourselves. We’re so externally focused, that we’re not taking care of number one.
Here are some ways to flip the script.
Quieting the mind and turning inwards is one of the best tools to getting out of our heads and quelling the incessant noise. I use the Insight Timer app to meditate, but you can set the timer on your phone for as little as 5 minutes and spend that time focusing on your breath.
Writing out your thoughts and getting your feelings out on paper is cathartic and can help you begin to let go of some of the stress you’re experiencing. It doesn’t matter if your thoughts are well-organized or if your writing is neat: just write. You’ll be amazed at how easily the words flow and how much more at peace you will feel afterwards.
Leave me a comment and let me know how you deal with being hard on yourself. Do you have any additional tips or suggestions? We’d love to hear them!